Bob and Joy Schwabach

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June 2008, Week 4  




We often need more USB ports, especially for laptops. There are plenty of small hubs that add more ports. They’re cheap enough and we have a couple.  

There are two main types of hubs: powered and unpowered. The powered ones come with an adapter that plugs into an electrical outlet. Some devices that useUltra buddy USB connections, like external hard drives or scanners and printers, need more power than they can pull from the computer itself, and for these kinds of accessories it’s best to get a hub that has its own power supply. These are widely available and sell for around $15-$30.  

We recently came across one with a  difference: the “Ultra Buddy,” which we found for $40 at The difference is that it can be connected to two computers at once.  

In short, the Ultra Buddy acts as what used to be called an A/B switch. This can partially substitute for a network. Two PCs can be connected to the back of the hub and up to seven USB devices plugged into the front. LED lights on top indicate which are in use. These can’t be used by both computers at the same time. To switch between computers, you just press a button. LED lights on top of the hub tell the user which ports are in use.  

If you don’t want or need to connect two computers to the same hub, you might like the DUB-H7, a 7-port hub from D-Link that sells for around $20 after a $10 rebate at An unusual feature of this hub is that is has an “upstream port” to connect to still more hubs. You can keep chaining hubs in line to connect up to 127 additional devices. We never came across anyone who needed that many.   

The power adapters for both these hubs are the slim-line type, which means they don’t block the other sockets in a power bar when you plug them in. The fat transformers that come with most equipment are very annoying since they inevitably take up two spaces on a power bar or block the neighboring socket when plugged into a two-socket wall outlet.  

 The Numbers Report and the News  now has 125,000 book titles available for wireless download to its popular Kindle e-book reader. This is up from 90,000 titles just a few months ago. Dozens of newspapers, magazines and blogs have also been added, including US News and World Report, the International Herald Tribune, and the Shanghai Daily. 

This whole process is interesting because of its speed and also its effect on the publishing industry. Books can usually be downloaded to the Kindle in just a few seconds and typically sell for $10, about one-half to one-third the price of a Kindlepaper copy. A similar cost ratio applies to downloading newspapers and magazines. The cost seems high to Bob, considering that unlike physical copies, there are almost no production costs involved. In the case of downloaded newspapers and magazines, you get the text and pictures but you don’t get the ads. This is too bad, because ads are often interesting and readers want to see them.  

A Looking Backwards Note: Many years ago, during World War II, Marshall Field, the Chicago department store mogul, started a New York City daily called “PM” and it carried no ads. Field thought it was unseemly to publish advertisements in a newspaper when the country was involved in a perilous war. He soon found, however, that readers were seriously annoyed by the lack of ads and he ended up having to cover store sales and restaurant openings as if they were news stories. PM soon said good night. 

Online Business Health Insurance offers choices for small businesses to set up employee health plans. Employers sign and up and say how much they want to spend for each employee. It does not have to be the same for each employee and it can be as low as $25 per person; there is no upper limit.  

The money goes into an online savings account and it is then up to each employee to choose the particular health plan they want. The choices cover more than 900 plans from 185 health insurance carriers. The employees commit to a plan for one month and it is renewable each month.  

Unlike earlier plans, which absorbed any money not spent on health care by the end of the year, these accounts allow each employee to save whatever is not spent and have that accumulate in a retirement account. The average deductible for the health savings accounts is about $1100 a month; that is the amount the employee would have to pay before coverage kicks in. This is comparable to a typical deductible range of $500 to $1500 in most health coverage plans. About six million Americans currently have health savings plans.  


“Easy Computer Basics, Windows Vista Edition,” by Michael Miller; $22 from 

This is the latest in a series of lavishly illustrated instructional books from Que Publihsing. Que is absolutely great at this kind book and this is one of the bestEasy Computer Basics we’ve seen on teaching a novice the basics of how their computer works (with pictures) and how they can make connections for accessories and changes to the desktop menus. Top-notch. 



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